Timestamp: Torchwood Series Three Summary

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Series Three) Summary

 

Torchwood‘s third series made us consider darkness in acts of salvation. The world is safe once again, but the prices paid were severe.

There’s a certain amount of creepiness in this series of five episodes since the invaders were trying to leverage the world’s most vulnerable population for their own addiction. The rest of the world did everything they could to save them from a fate literally worse than death, but politicians and Jack fell on the side of logic: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Facing and defying the darkness that led to that logic sold the drama.

In true Torchwood tradition, the family is shattered in the end, and the magic is in how the logic is fulfilled in the process. The needs of millions outweighed the needs of Torchwood Three.

Just beautiful.

We’ve been through this twice now, so we’re familiar with the drill: We can’t make a direct comparison between Torchwood and Doctor Who, but we can look at the scores so far to get an idea of how it fits within the Timestamps Project’s scope.

Torchwood Series Three earned a 4.8 average. That places it even with the classic Ninth Season – the third season with the Third Doctor – which is the top-rated season in the history of the Timestamps Project. It’s also, by far, the highest rated series of Torchwood.

 

Day One – 5
Day Two – 5
Day Three – 4
Day Four – 5
Day Five – 5

Torchwood Series One Average Rating: 4.8/5

 

The Timestamps Project is still proceeding in mostly chronological order, so the path forward contains the third series of Sarah Jane Adventures and the remaining David Tennant specials, with a goal of completing both before the end of the year.

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner of the Judoon

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #TW31: Children of Earth – Day Five

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five
(1 episode, s03e05, 2009)

 

The world is safe, but is it worth the cost?

Gwen appears on a camcorder recording, asking why the Doctor has not appeared to save the world. Sometimes, she muses, he must be appalled at how humanity deals with crisis. This tape is her record of the world ended.

Prime Minister Green appears on public television to announce his inoculation plan. Rhiannon and Johnny Davies, following Ianto’s warning, open their doors to the local children and keep their own hidden. The Frobishers also take refuge in their own home.

Colonel Oduya of UNIT talks to the 456, asking why they need the children. The 456 reveals that they are used as recreational drugs. Despite being appalled in their part of an intergalactic drug trade, the government still proceeds on course. The public relations campaign is shifted into full gear while Gwen and Jack meet with Frobisher and Spears.

During the discussion, they realize that the tapes are no longer valid leverage. Releasing them will only hasten the collapse. Gwen calls Rhys to let him know that it’s over, also informing him that Ianto has died. Jack asks Frobisher about his family and to let Gwen inform Ianto’s family of his fate. The government agrees, and Jack is placed into custody as Gwen and Rhys are set free. He’s placed in a cell near Lois.

At Agent Johnson’s facility, Alice and Steven are released. Alice is brought up to speed on the situation, and she tells Johnson that she needs Jack Harkness.

Frobisher is called to the Prime Minister’s office and informed that his children will be inoculated publicly in order to sell the ruse to the public. They will also be taken for processing. Frobisher threatens to tell the world about this campaign, but Green is not swayed. Frobisher has been betrayed despite his loyalty, and he asks Bridget Spears to requisition a gun for him.

With one hour before the operation begins, troops are deployed to start gathering the children. Frobisher returns home while Spears pays a visit to Lois Habiba and tells her the story of how she and Frobisher met. While she tells the story, Frobisher gathers his family upstairs, murders them, and then commits suicide.

Spears tells Lois that John Frobisher was a good man. That this wasn’t his fault. That history will not remember him this way.

Gwen and Rhys meet up with PC Andy Davison and travel to the Davies home. Gwen tells them about Ianto and warns that special forces are on their way to take the children. Jack’s request of her to save the kids has just gotten more complicated.

The soldiers start rounding up the children, causing parents to start panicking and revolting. The soldiers also start canvassing the local neighborhoods, so Gwen, Rhiannon, and Rhys start moving the kids to a hiding place. Johnny informs the local parents that the soldiers are there for the children, and a fight erupts on the street. Davidson joins the fight, but the adults are soon pacified. The distraction worked. The kids are safe for now.

But the rest of the country’s children are not. In the abandoned shelter, Gwen makes her video recording and then talks to Rhys about their unborn child. She had considered abortion, unwilling to bring a child into this new world, but changed her mind when she considered how it would affect Rhys. They’re forced to run again as the soldiers discover the hiding spot.

Jack is taken to Johnson’s facility where he’s reunited with his family. He’s taken to a warehouse with Dekker to devise a plan that will use the 456 wavelength that killed Clem to attack the aliens. Meanwhile, at eighty percent completion, Colonel Oduya asks the 456 if that’s enough. The 456 demand the rest.

Jack analyses the wavelength and considers Clem, realizing that Clem was killed because he was a weapon that could be used against the aliens. Jack deduces that they need to use a child as an antenna to transmit the deadly wavelength. Unfortunately, they only have one child at their disposal: Steven.

And the effort will kill the child.

In a heartbreaking moment, Jack decides to use Steven. Alice pleads for Steven to run, but Steven has blind faith in his “uncle”. Jack ignores Steven’s questions and initiates the wave. As Steven beings singing the wavelength, the children of Earth follow suit, and the 456 react violently, smashing into the glass and exploding. The remains are transported away as the 456 retreat.

Jack watches tearfully as Steven dies a terrible death. Alice is a wreck and the room mourns with her, but the children of Earth are safe.

The Cabinet disbands, leaving Prime Minister Brian Green alone with Bridget Spears and Denise Riley. When Green tries to save himself by framing the American general, Bridget responds that she has recorded the proceedings with help from Lois and the Torchwood lenses. Riley takes charge, promising to have Lois released and that Green’s days as PM are over.

With the threat behind them, Jack waits for Alice in an attempt to apologize. She won’t speak with him, so he leaves without a word.

Six months pass. Gwen and Rhys travel to a remote location, heeding a request for a meeting with Jack. He has been traveling the world, trying to absolve his guilt, but it’s not enough. Gwen gives him his vortex manipulator, which she saved from the Hub. Jack uses it to transport himself to a cold fusion freighter in the solar system, trying to run from what he did.

Gwen cries with her husband as they walk away. Torchwood is finished.

 

Jack has a point: Death follows him, both literally and figuratively. He dies and resurrects a lot, but he’s also lost several people who were close to him. Suzie CostelloOwen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Ianto Jones, and now Steven Carter. It’s a lot to handle.

Especially since he made such a horrific (but necessary) choice, one which shattered the families he had left.

This story also brings the reverse of a trope highlighted by Meat, Reset, and Planet of the Ood: This time around, humans are the ones being captured and exploited for resources. It also marks one of the few times when a child is explicitly killed on screen.

The shock and awe are only amplified by the masterful performance by Peter Capaldi. Frobisher makes a hard decision because he doesn’t see another choice, and the sequence is heartbreaking.

All of this, the drama and conflict and emotions that tear all of us apart, make for great television and storytelling.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth (Series Three) Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW30: Children of Earth – Day Four

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four
(1 episode, s03e04, 2009)

 

Torchwood suffers a terrible loss.

Confronted by Clem, Jack recalls his actions in 1965. The 456 offered a cure for a deadly flu pandemic that was about to break out, but they wanted twelve children in exchange with the promise that those children would live forever. Jack was specifically chosen because they needed someone who couldn’t die and didn’t care.

The children were taken to the specific coordinates, during which Clem escaped. His escape went unnoticed because the 456 left before disappeared first. Jack didn’t notice his escape, and it’s uncertain why the 456 didn’t notice either. It’s possible that Clem was on the verge of puberty and was thus undesirable to the aliens.

Clem, haunted by Jack’s face in his nightmares, steals Gwen’s gun and shoots Jack. After Jack resurrects, Gwen talks Clem down. Ianto is upset that Jack never mentioned this before.

Meanwhile, Agent Johnson takes Alice and Steven to her facility. Alice warns Johnson not to anger Jack.

The Torchwood team tunes back into the summit with the 456. While Frobisher questions what will happen to the children they demanded, the aliens state that a “remnant” is watching. Clem assumes that the 456 is speaking of him, while everyone else believes that it is the camera linking the summit to the party in the Prime Minister’s office.

The 456 demand that Frobisher sends a camera into the tank. When he does, a 456 is captured in profile and three heartbeats and distinct forms of life are detected. One of them is a child, one of the chosen from 1965, who has not aged a day since. The child’s eyes widen in shock. Presumably, it has not seen another human in the decades since its abduction.

The cameraman leaves as the 456 spew more green goo and transmit a recording of Frobisher’s voice announcing that this is off the record. The 456 says they do not harm the children, that they feel no pain, but if humanity refuses their demands, the entire species will be destroyed.

The Americans are furious. They demand all the records of the 1965 encounter and threaten Prime Minister Green with United Nations sanctions for withholding the information.

Ianto feels betrayed by Jack’s secrecy about 1965. Jack leaves to call Frobisher. Confirming that the 456 have returned, Jack warns that their return is proof that they cannot be trusted. After the call, Frobisher is summoned to the Prime Minister’s office for an emergency planning meeting. Lois continues to record the proceedings as the PM decides to negotiate with the 456 as they explore options for viable children that no one would miss.

Frobisher returns to the isolation room and offers the 456 one child per million people on the planet, approximately 6,700 in total. The 456 refuse and the children around the world start chanting various numbers, each country with a different value.

The hard line is ten percent of the children of Earth. No negotiation.

Agent Johnson discovers that her unit has been cut off by the government, so she decides to go to London to get more information. As she travels, the assembled officials try to decide how best to select the “units” for delivery and how to sell it to the pubic. The meeting becomes contentious as they bounce from random lottery to alphabetical selection to simply filtering out the “drains on society”.

They finally decide that those who are less likely to contribute to society are the viable targets, including those living on benefits and those destined for prisons, based on school league tables and academic performance.

The proposal is accepted and given to Frobisher for execution.

The Torchwood team decides to use the recording as leverage to blackmail the Cabinet. Jack and Ianto head to Thames House while Gwen secures Lois’s cooperation. As Jack and Ianto hit gridlock in the city, Ianto calls his sister to warn her, fully aware that the line is being traced. He extends the warning to the government officials monitoring the call before telling his family that he loves them. He also calls Gwen, therefore providing Johnson with the location of the new Hub.

Frobisher outlines his plan to the Cabinet, offering a vaccine against the chanting as a cover story. When the vaccine goes wrong, they can pretend that they didn’t know and that the 456 were behind it all. When Jack is in position, Lois addresses the Cabinet on behalf of Torchwood, informing them of the recording. Jack and Ianto surrender themselves at the entrance of Thames House.

When Johnson arrives at the Torchwood warehouse, Gwen shows her the recording and informs them of the gravity of the situation. Rhys has a copy of the recordings and is ready to send them to the public if anything goes wrong.

Jack and Ianto are taken before the 456. The 456 refuse to yield and Jack declares that they are making it a war. The 456 responds by releasing a virus into the facility, prompting an immediate lockdown. Ianto demands that an anti-virus be deployed or he will destroy the tank. The 456 refuse, and the tank is bulletproof. The 456 starts to shriek, a scream that goes beyond the recording as Clem screams in agony and starts to bleed. The 456 declare that the Remnant will be disconnected and Clement dies in Gwen’s arms.

Jack promises to get Ianto out, but it’s too late. Ianto has already been exposed. Ianto collapses and Jack catches him.

Dekker has donned an environmental suit. Jack is immortal. Everyone else in Thames House dies.

Including Ianto.

Jack says that it’s all his fault, but Ianto says no. Ianto says that he loves Jack and asks him to never forget him. As Ianto slips away, the 456 tells Jack that humanity will deliver the children. Jack succumbs to the virus as he kisses Ianto goodbye.

The Cabinet is left with two choices: Deliver 35 million children or face annihilation. Brian Green chooses to deliver the children.

Gwen arrives some time later in a room filled with body bags. She finds Ianto and Jack, knowing that Jack will come back but Ianto has paid the price for their efforts. As Gwen mourns, she declares that there is nothing they can do.

 

Working with Torchwood is not conducive to a long life. We learned this on Gwen’s first adventure, and it was reinforced with Suzie Costello, Owen Harper, and Toshiko Sato. But this one was a deep cut for Jack, the team, and the fans. Jack lost the man he loved and the team has already seen so much death, but the fans reacted by building a shrine in Cardiff Bay. The memorial was a persistent feature for several years and eventually became a permanent attraction in the area.

This episode and its terrible toll also proved that the 456 were a significant threat. In fact, one to be taken seriously. One that could not be defeated by sheer strength alone. The team was outmatched and outmaneuvered, and they’re left with little hope at the end of the chapter.

That makes this part a very powerful one.

A minor note comes by way of the mention that the 456 are only in the market for pre-pubescent children. That explains why the Bannerman Road Gang does not crossover into this series.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW29: Children of Earth – Day Three

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three
(1 episode, s03e03, 2009)

 

“We are here.”

Torchwood has gone to ground.

They’re hiding out in an old factory once used by Torchwood One. As the world reels in fear of its own children, Gwen uses her police knowledge to steal laptops, debit cards, and mobile phones while Jack swipes a car. The team secures supplies, including a new set of appropriate clothes for Jack. Ianto makes contact just long enough to tell his family that he’s okay, but Alice is still left wondering about her father.

Torchwood Three’s “Hub 2” is up and running.

The Prime Minister locks the country down to protect the children. Clem McDonald is doing the best he can under the circumstances but ends up in police custody after stealing a woman’s pocketbook. Meanwhile, Alice tries another route to find out about Jack and ends up flagged by the government.

Gwen makes contact with Lois Habiba and asks her to wear a pair of Torchwood contact lenses so they can see what’s going on. Lois is hesitant but Gwen asks her to take the lenses in case she reconsiders. Back at the Hub, Jack and Ianto dig into the kill order while they discuss Jack’s status as a fixed point in time and space. Ianto is shaken by Jack’s immortality but they promise to make the most of what time they have.

When they find out that Clem has been arrested, Ianto sends Gwen to the police station to bail him out. She calls PC Andy Davidson to secure Clem’s release. While Ianto digs into Clem’s history, Jack asks to see the history behind each of the blank page victims. What he finds sends him running.

Agent Johnson’s group makes the connection between Jack and Alice. Frobisher orders Johnson to bring her in while he (and a sneaky Lois) head to Thames House. Johnson’s team storms Alice’s house – the bastards kill the dog! – and pursues her. When they catch up to her, they find young Steven pointing into the distance.

The rest of the world’s children point skyward, tracking a pillar of fire descending into Thames House. The 456 have arrived. They fill the containment chamber as Frobisher meets with Mr. Dekker and makes contact. The aliens instruct the humans to call them 456, and Frobisher extracts a promise that they will not speak of the previous visit to Earth in 1965. The 456 wish to speak with the world but will settle for a diplomatic liaison.

Representatives from UNIT and the United States meet with Prime Minister Green and make their displeasure clear. Green hands control of the 456 situation to Frobisher, a non-elected official with no powers of state, to defuse the tension.

Jack sneaks into the Frobisher home and steals a mobile phone to make contact. Jack asks if the current events are linked to 1965, and Frobisher confirms that the kill order was designed to silence those who remained with knowledge of the event. Jack wants to talk to the 456 but Frobisher counters with the revelation that he has Alice and Steven.

Lois slips the contact lenses in before joining Frobisher and Bridget Spears at the containment chamber. The conference is also being transmitted to Prime Minister Green, UNIT, and the American representatives. In the end, Frobisher demands that the 456 cease using human children to communicate. In exchange, the 456 demand a gift: Ten percent of the children on Earth.

Gwen takes Clem to Hub 2 where he meets the team, learns a quick lesson on social acceptance, and has a bite to eat. The team watches the diplomatic conference with the 456, and as Jack returns to the new Hub, Clem says that he can smell the man who previously delivered the children to 456.

Jack is that man. Gwen protests that he is a good man who fights aliens, but Jack reveals that he did what was asked of him.

In 1965, he gave the 456 twelve children. He gave them the “gift.”

 

This episode provides a bridge and a moment to breathe as the team gets its feet back on the ground. Not a moment is wasted, however, as the 456 arrive and the story climaxes with their demand as Jack’s allegiance is brought to question.

In that sense, the team’s grounding is short-lived. They end the episode off balance just like they started, and that keeps the drama moving until next week.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW28: Children of Earth – Day Two

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two
(1 episode, s03e02, 2009)

 

The band is on the run and the Hub has been destroyed.

All that’s left is a giant crater in Roald Dahl Plass. As Gwen stumbles to her feet, an emergency response team pulls her away from the flames and loads her into an ambulance. This team is not your standard emergency response but rather an assassination squad. Gwen bites and shoots her way free before hijacking the ambulance.

Meanwhile, Ianto pulls himself out of the rubble and runs from a sniper as the police arrive, complete with Andy Davidson and a defense of Gwen’s character. Agent Johnson calls Frobisher and reports that the job is one-third of the way done, then takes Davidson to raid Gwen’s home. Frobisher also receives some information about a mysterious device and the 456.

Gwen stops the ambulance and interrogates one of the surviving assassins, learning that the government as ordered the destruction of Torchwood. Gwen rushes home, wakes up Rhys, and unceremoniously tries to usher him to safety. Ianto makes contact while Rhys gets dressed, and Gwen rushes away, shooting out Johnson’s tires before escaping.

Government forces also storm the Davies household in a search for Ianto, but he’s one the streets elsewhere. Gwen and Rhys end up dumping their car since the license plates are trackable.

As morning dawns, Frobisher tries to patch up relations with his family before heading to work. At Home Office, Lois Habiba does some more digging while Frobisher briefs the Prime Minister about Jack and the 456 device. The 456 have only directly contacted Britain. Lois tries to ask Frobisher if Jack can help, but she’s chided for her efforts.

Jack’s daughter tries contacting him without success. We also discover that Timothy White has survived and is on the run.

At what’s left of the Hub, recovery teams find an arm, a shoulder, and a head. They take to a warehouse in London while Ianto watches from a nearby rooftop. In the warehouse, the remaining pieces of Jack’s body start a gruesome and extreme resurrection sequence. He goes from a skeleton to a blind, screaming burn victim. Johnson reports this to Frobisher as gets ready to check on Mr. Dekker’s progress with the 456 device.

Gwen and Rhys find that their accounts have been frozen, so they take their fight to London by stowing away on a food delivery lorry. During the trip, Gwen finds the right way to tell Rhys about their pregnancy, leading to mixed emotions of joy and anxiety given their current situation.

Meanwhile, Ianto’s family receives a card in their newspaper, which is a covert request for Rhiannon to bring him supplies. Johnny runs a distraction while Rhiannon sneaks away, and when she makes contact, she’s happy to see him but upset about his condition. During this meeting, the children stop again.

In unison: “We are coming tomorrow.”

Timothy White is particularly upset about this revelation.

Ianto takes the laptop and Rhiannon’s car in his pursuit of the ambulance that took Jack. At Home Office, Gwen Cooper tries to make contact with Frobisher but ends up finding an ally in Lois. The women covertly set up a meeting, though Gwen was clearly expecting Frobisher instead of the new hire. Luckily, Lois is a much friendlier face, and she bears news of the kill order. Lois doesn’t like covering up murders.

Jack has finished his resurrection. He demands to see the man in charge but instead meets Agent Johnson before being sealed in concrete while Ianto watches from afar. Meanwhile, Gwen and Rhys use the information provided by Lois to sneak into a secure compound as funeral directors to retrieve Rupesh Patanjali’s body. This takes them into the lion’s den, and Rhys almost blows their cover when their contact, Corporal “Kodak” Camara, flirts with Gwen. Luckily, Camara’s a bit thick. He also hits the deck nicely when Gwen sucker punches him.

Unfortunately, as Gwen disables the cameras, the alarms are sounded and the couple is surrounded by Johnson’s forces just as they discover the concrete cell. They find an escape route when Ianto uses heavy machinery to rip the makeshift sarcophagus from the building. Gwen provides an explosive exit and Johnson reports her failure to Frobisher. The man is not pleased.

Ianto stops the machine at the edge of a large quarry and drops the sarcophagus over the edge. The concrete shatters and frees Jack’s body. He comes back to life once again and is reunited with his Torchwood family.

Frobisher, Spears, and the Prime Minister observe the device’s construction. It ends up being a tank of some sort. Later that night, the tank is flooded with a gas mixture that is poisonous to humans. Bridget wants to investigate the 456, but Frobisher tells her that they don’t have time. The 456 will be arriving tomorrow.

Frobisher and Spears leave as Dekker embraces the tank with an unnatural sense of welcoming anticipation.

 

It’s under extreme pressure where Torchwood works best, and this is no exception. Watching the team play to their strengths without the guidance of Jack Harkness behind them says a lot about how well they have adapted to their roles over the last two years. The endgame, of course, was the rescue of their team’s leader in a tense action sequence that left me cheering multiple times.

I do feel bad for Jack’s daughter, Alice, who is left wondering throughout the entire episode.

This episode brings some further Torchwood mythology to bear, including snippets of how Queen Victoria created other institutions (of which the current government is unaware) and the official stance that Torchwood Two has been disbanded (but that the current government is unsure).

Finally, we get another tease of Gwen Cooper’s linage with the funeral director sequence. Gwyneth, her ancestor from The Unquiet Dead, was the servant to an undertaker.

The team dynamic and resourcefulness make this an amazing chase episode as the mysterious threat bears down on the planet Earth. They arrive next week.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Three

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW27: Children of Earth – Day One

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One
(1 episode, s03e01, 2009)

 

The Home Office gets explosive results.

Scotland, 1965: A bus full of children stops at an undisclosed location. When they stop, the children disembark and are walked toward a bright light. All of them but one walk into the light. The lone child flees as the light flares.

Cardiff, 2009: Gwen is withdrawing money from an ATM when she notices that the children around her have frozen in place, totally catatonic. The same is happening all around the area. As suddenly as it began, the phenomenon ends and the children start moving again as if nothing happened.

Gwen heads to Torchwood and begins to investigate the oddity. We’re reminded that Jack, Ianto, and Gwen are all that remains of Torchwood Three.

In a nearby hospital, a patient dies on the table. The doctor, Rupesh Patanjali, informs Ianto and Jack, believing that they are the patient’s neighbors. Jack and Ianto ask for a moment with the body, which they then open with a laser saw and withdraw an alien organ. They’re discovered by the doctor and leave with the organ, but before they leave Patanjali informs them of several more missing bodies. Jack and Ianto refuse to help due to all of the red tape involved in the investigation.

We are next introduced to a new set of players. Lois Habiba is starting a job working for Bridget Spears, who is the assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher. Secretary Frobisher (who looks very familiar) is visited by UNIT Colonel Oduya who informs him that the phenomenon with the children happened all around the world.

Torchwood discovers this at the same time. They’re naturally concerned, and so is UNIT, the latter going to yellow alert while they investigate if the incident was extraterrestrial or not. Obviously, everyone wants to keep it quiet.

Jack is perturbed that Martha Jones chose now to go on her honeymoon – to whom, we do not yet know – but luckily Dr. Patanjali arrives at Roald Dahl Plass just as Torchwood needs a doctor. Jack and Ianto lured him in just like they did with Gwen. Naturally, Gwen goes above to serve as a recruitment officer and review the files that Patanjali brought. While they talk, the children all stop again.

But this time, they scream. Then they chant, in unison, “We are coming.”

It happened worldwide. It also happened with one adult, Timothy White, a patient in a mental institution in East Grinstead.

Patanjali is paged back to the hospital as the Home Office is flooded with calls. Frobisher gets a visit from Mr. Dekker, the head of MI5’s technology division and alien monitoring, who tells him that “the 456” have re-established contact for the first time since 1965. At the same time, Lois takes a call from Torchwood, which the system flags as classified. Using her supervisor’s credentials, she learns more than she bargained for.

Frobisher meets with Prime Minister Brian Green, a man who is a bit overwhelmed with the various alien threats looming over them. Frobisher suggests keeping certain historical events off the record, and Green wants to keep his name out of it. Frobisher gets the privilege of a “blank page”.

Gwen discovers that every child worldwide was speaking English, and Jack and Ianto agree that they need to interview one of them. Gwen drives to meet Timothy while Jack visits his daughter, Alice Carter, and her son Steven, his grandson.

Wait… what?

They catch up for a few minutes and muse about Jack’s immortality, but in the end, Alice refuses to let Jack use Steven for Torchwood experimentation. So, Jack turns to Patanjali instead.

Ianto visits his sister, Rhiannon Davies, but she also refuses to let him take one of the kids out. She’s also nervous about Ianto’s relationship with Jack. Her husband Johnny is quite a bit more homophobic about it. Ianto is humiliated but tries to save face. The moment is interrupted by someone stealing the Torchwood SUV. Ianto is exasperated.

Gwen’s interview with Timothy reveals that he was the child who ran away in 1965. His real name is Clement McDonald, and he’s developed an unusually heightened sense of smell. He’s been smelling the aliens coming back for months, and he also can tell that Gwen is three weeks pregnant.

Surprise! Although, it works out well with Rhys shopping for a house.

Gwen calls Ianto, who has made it back to the Hub, and asks him to search for information about MacDonald, missing children, and Scotland. Unbeknownst to him, Ianto triggers an alarm at an unidentified military monitoring station.

At Home Office, Frobisher orders the blank page, which is code for a kill order. There are four targets on the list: Captain Jack Harkness, retired Colonel Michael Sanders, Ellen Hunt, and Captain Andrew Staines. Lois sees Bridget is distressed, and when she looks at Bridget’s e-mail, she recognizes Jack’s name from the earlier call.

Jack arrives at the hospital and receives word that another man has died. When Jack examines the body, Patanjali shoots him. As Jack dies, a military force arrives as a woman named Johnson waits until Jack revives. Johnson also discovers the link between Clement and Timothy. She sends officers to retrieve him, so he runs.

Patanjali reveals that he was a spy for this group, attempting to infiltrate Torchwood. Jack revives and Johnson kills him again, issuing orders for her men to implant a bomb in his body. Johnson covers her operation by killing Patanjali, stopping him from revealing the truth to Jack.

Jack, meanwhile, revives after the soldiers depart. He returns to the Hub.

At the Hub, Gwen verifies Clement’s claim with a scanner. Jack congratulates her and inadvertently uses the scanner, thus discovering the bomb. He orders Gwen and Ianto to evacuate. He kisses Ianto, watches him rise on the elevator, and promises that he’ll come back. He always does.

The bomb has a blast radius of one mile. The Hub is completely destroyed in a massive explosion that knocks Gwen to the ground.

Meanwhile, the children chant: “We are coming, we are coming, we are coming… back.”

 

Day One is tense and engaging, leading us into the first season-long arc in the Doctor Who universe since The Trial of a Time Lord. The show picks up the pieces left behind from the previous season and lays down several threads to pursue in the process. We meet Jack’s family and Ianto’s family – two families that we had not previously met – and learn that Gwen and Rhys are expecting a baby.

Torchwood has apparently lost its secrecy, including the general location of Torchwood Three’s headquarters. It’s no wonder since the world has been time and again been exposed to aliens, but perhaps the destruction of the Hub will reset that norm. At this point, half the world knows of or believes in alien life, and the other half is in denial.

Unfortunately, this brings into question the fate of the various beings and relics housed in the Hub, including the Weevils, Gray, and Myfanwy.

We get a nod to Martha Jones, which is a bit meta since she was expected to appear in this set of stories until Law & Order: UK picked up Freema Agyeman. We also meet the fourth Prime Minister in the revival era – Brian Green picks up where Harold Saxon, Harriet Jones, and the unknown politician in Aliens of London left off – which is something that the classic era didn’t play with much.

Finally, after reading Children of Time from kOZMIC Press, I can’t help but think of a penguin when I hear the name Frobisher.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp: Torchwood Series Two Summary

Torchwood: Series Two Summary

 

Torchwood‘s second series took the messages and meanings of Series One to greater heights of humanity, compassion, and companionship.

From tales of family and friendship to a mission to save what was effectively a space whale from a life of torture, we saw the next evolution of empathy and compassion mixed with the dark and gritty atmosphere that made Torchwood so distinct from its parent franchise. That darkness reared its head with multiple deaths this round, including an exploration of what lay beyond with Owen’s trilogy of stories in the middle of the run.

Like Series One, what remains is a shattered team, but this time around we see a stronger resolve among the survivors. Jack, despite the gaping hole in his heart from the dark resolution of his brother’s story, remains as a stronger leader this time around and anchors Ianto and Gwen going forward. Owen and Tosh will be missed, from their combined medical knowledge to their respective acerbic wit and technical expertise. I loved Tosh from the start, but Owen grew on me as time went on. Their unrequited love is the grand tragedy.

As with last time, it’s obvious that we can’t make a direct comparison between Torchwood and Doctor Who, but we can look at the scores so far to get an idea of how it fits within the Timestamps Project’s scope.

Torchwood Series Two earned a 4.0 average. That places it on par with the classic Twelfth Season – the debut of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor – which is the ninth highest in the history of the Timestamps Project. It’s also slightly higher than the first series of Torchwood, which is a good sign going forward.

 

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – 4
Sleeper – 4
To the Last Man – 4
Meat – 4
Adam – 4
Reset – 4
Dead Man Walking – 4
A Day in the Death – 3
Something Borrowed – 4
From Out of the Rain – 2
Adrift – 5
Fragments – 5
Exit Wounds – 5

Torchwood Series One Average Rating: 4.0/5

 

Since I’m approaching the revival era from a (mostly) chronological order, we’re headed back to Doctor Who proper with the return of Donna Noble and Series Four. After that, the second series of Sarah Jane Adventures and the third series of Torchwood, with bits of David Tennant’s final year specials sprinkled throughout.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #TW26: Exit Wounds

Torchwood: Exit Wounds
(1 episode, s02e13, 2008)

 

Gray’s revenge tears Torchwood at the seams.

Picking up right where we left off, Tosh detects severe Rift activity St. Helen’s Hospital, the Cardiff Police Station, and the Central IT Server Building. With their SUV missing, the team piles into Rhys’s car and heads to their respective assignments.

Jack returns to the Hub and finds John Hart. Hart shows his love by unloading two machine guns into Jack’s chest. Captain Harkness wakes up chained to the wall and subject to the disappointment of an apparently lonely Time Agent. Hart fires up the rift manipulator, takes his captive to a nice vantage point, and pages the rest of Torchwood Three.

Gwen and Rhys head to the police station to find PC Andy Davidson supervising bloody corpses and the Weevils that caused them. The Weevils apparently targeted the four most senior officers on the force. Convenient, that.

Ianto and Tosh arrive at the Central Server Building to find three cloaked figures wielding scythes. The menace is easily dispatched with a little gunplay.

Owen finds a Hoix at the hospital and takes care of it with a sedative and a pack of cigarettes.

When John Hart pages their comms, he orders the team to their respective roofs. Once there, they watch helplessly as Hart detonates explosives in fifteen locations around the city. Hart then whisks Jack away from Cardiff Castle into the past.

The city, meanwhile, is crippled.

Jack finds himself in 27 AD. John Hart refuses to take Jack back to the present, revealing that he is a walking bomb and that his vortex manipulator is fused to his arm. Jack’s brother Gray arrives and Jack apologizes for abandoning him. Gray doesn’t accept the apology, preferring to stab Jack in the chest with a large knife. Gray is furious that he was left to suffer unspeakable torture for years, and he wants Jack to suffer as he did.

Gray throws Jack into a grave, destined to die from asphyxiation and resurrect thousands of times over the next 2000 years. Hart protests, but relents to Gray’s wishes as he throws a ring to Jack and fills the grave. Gray travels to the Hub in the present and releases Weevils into the streets.

Gwen takes command of the local police, dispatching them into the city to deal with the crisis. Tosh and Ianto are reassigned to the Turnmill Nuclear Power Station where a potential meltdown looms, but the Weevils block their path.

When Tosh detects Gray and Hart’s arrival in the present, Gwen returns to the Hub and finds the captain. Hart explains things to Gwen, especially Gray’s story. The vortex manipulator releases from his arm as Gray promised and Hart uses that as evidence that he is telling the truth. He tells Tosh of a tracker – the ring – that he left with Jack as the only means to save him, but the signal is nowhere to be found. Tosh and Ianto return to the Hub and help wrangle the Weevils still in Torchwood HQ, but Gray traps Ianto, Hart, and Gwen in the vaults.

Meanwhile, Owen uses his status as “King of the Weevils” to navigate the streets to the nuclear plant. He finds Nira Docherty, a scientist trying to singlehandedly prevent the meltdown, and convinces her to leave with a can of Weevil repellent. Owen establishes comms with Tosh and they set to work, but Tosh is interrupted by a gunshot.

She has been fatally shot in the stomach by Gray. As he looms over her, a pounding echoes through the Hub. Gray tracks the sound leaving Tosh to drag herself to the autopsy room and inject herself with a massive load of painkillers.

The pounding was coming from the morgue. Gray finds Jack in a drawer, and Jack tells his brother that he forgives him. The Torchwood Institute team from 1901 found Jack, who has at that point crossed his own timeline, and fulfilled his request to be frozen until the present day. Jack uses chloroform to incapacitate Gray.

In the vaults, Hart rigs a recall command for the Weevils. Jack finds the captives and releases them.

Tosh re-establishes comms with Owen and walks him through the recovery process, but the core is too far gone. The only option is to vent the coolant through the containment building, for which Owen will need to set up a delay to avoid being destroyed. Unfortunately, a power surge triggers and emergency lockdown, trapping Owen in the room.

A hopeless Owen falls apart, but Tosh asks him to stop before he breaks her heart. The two talk as they each prepare to die, although Owen is unaware of Tosh’s condition and Owen realizes that he will die by watching himself dissolve. They also talk about that one time that Tosh had to cover for Owen just after he was hired… that one time with the space pig.

Owen apologizes for the two of them missing each other and never getting that date. The coolant begins to fill the room, and Owen tells Tosh that everything is okay. His last words are, “Oh, God.”

Jack, Gwen, Ianto, and Hart find Tosh. She tells them about Owen before dying in Jack’s arms.

The next morning, Rhys and Gwen watch the news. Rhys holds Gwen as she mourns. At the Hub, Jack prepares to freeze Gray, unprepared to add more death to that which has already torn at the team. John bids Jack farewell with his condolences and a kiss.

Jack and Gwen pack up Owen’s and Tosh’s belongings as Ianto logs them out of the system for the final time. The team gathers around Tosh’s terminal as a message pops up.

It’s her farewell.

She thanks Jack, admits her love for Owen, and hopes that her death meant something. As she fades from the screen, Jack resolves that they should carry on. The end is where they start from.

 

I knew it was coming and I still cried. This story does what Torchwood does best by mixing action and drama and ensuring that the stakes are kept high. Doctor Who often pulls out the last-minute save and keeps the tone (mostly) hopeful and light, but Torchwood doesn’t pull punches. Everyone there is living on borrowed time.

It’s the last time that we will see the Torchwood Three team that we met in Day One together. It’s a milestone for the series.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Series Two Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW25: Fragments

Torchwood: Fragments
(1 episode, s02e12, 2008)

 

Torchwood Three: This Is Your Life!

The Torchwood Three team is investigating a derelict building. Ianto pages Gwen to join them as soon as possible, then teams with Owen while Jack and Tosh take a different direction. As they explore, they each find an explosive device that ticks to zero.

Snap.

Boom.

Gwen wakes up to Ianto’s message and rushes to the scene while we tuck into a series of flashback stories.

 

Captain Jack Harkness – 1,392 deaths earlier

Jack resurrects with a wine bottle in his gut. It’s 1899, thirty years since he accidentally landed in the era while searching for the Doctor. He finds himself face-to-face with two women in Victorian garb – agents Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd – who kidnap and interrogate him. They try different methods of killing him, intrigued by his 14 deaths in the last six months, and ask him about the Doctor.

Eventually, they identify themselves as the Torchwood Institute – at this point, they’re still dedicated to fighting the Doctor – and decide to take him on as an agent. His first mission is apprehending a Blowfish, but he’s angry when Torchwood agents kill the alien in cold blood. He also finds out that his employment is mandatory.

When he turns down his next assignment, he encounters a tarot card reader who prophesizes the Doctor’s return in a century. With nothing better to do, he returns to Torchwood and passes the years with his work.

Decades later, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he’s working for Alex Hopkins. Unfortunately, Hopkins is fearful of the new millennium and kills the entire team in the Hub. He leaves Jack the entire operation as he puts a bullet in his brain.

 

In the modern time, Jack wakes up to find Rhys and Gwen standing over him. He directs them to find Tosh, who is trapped under a fallen support beam.

 

Toshiko Sato – 5 years earlier

Tosh, working for the Ministry of Defence, steals information for a vicious gang that is holding her mother for ransom. Using the blueprints, she assembles the sonic modulator device and arrives at the exchange site, but she’s caught during a UNIT raid.

Locked away in a top-secret black site for an undisclosed period of time, she’s eventually visited by Jack. Her mother has been Retconned and taken to safety. Tosh, who successfully built the device from faulty plans, is offered a pardon in exchange for her service to Torchwood.

 

Back in the modern time, Rhys and Gwen attempt to free Tosh, but they’re not able to do so alone. Gwen rushes off as Jack comes across Ianto, who is trapped under a pile of rubble.

 

Ianto Jones – 21 months earlier

Jack is wrestling with a Weevil when Ianto comes to his aid. Ianto is looking for a job after his former workplace, Torchwood One, was destroyed. Ianto’s persistence (and constant praise of Jack’s coat) eventually pay off after he helps capture Myfanwy the pterodactyl. Jack claims that it wasn’t his first experience wrangling dinosaurs since he was present when they perished after an impact from space.

 

In the ruined building, Jack and Gwen pull Ianto free and put his shoulder back in place. Jack takes Ianto to help with Tosh while Gwen looks for Owen.

 

Owen Harper – 4 years earlier

Owen and his fiancée Katie are planning their wedding when she starts having memory problems. They consult with a brain surgeon who suggests early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. When Owen presses the issue, they discover that Katie has a tumor in her brain. In reality, the tumor is an alien and when it is threatened, it releases toxic gas and kills everyone in the operating room.

Jack arrives moments too late and expresses his condolences as he explains the situation to Owen. Owen protests and Jack knocks him out. When Owen wakes up, he discovers a massive cover-up and is given time to sort his affairs.

He meets Jack again at Katie’s grave, and after a fight, Owen agrees to join Torchwood as the team’s medical officer.

 

In the present, Gwen finds Owen precariously perched beneath a guillotine-like window. After a tense moment, Gwen pulls him free.

The team assembles outside to find that the SUV has been taken. They receive a holographic message from Captain John Hart. Hart claims credit for the bombs and reveals that he has taken Jack’s brother Gray hostage.

 

The synopsis may be brief, but there is a lot to unpack in this story as it puts our heroes on a collision course with the finale. Specifically, we get the backstories for most of the Torchwood team. Suzie Costello is the only original member not to be put under the microscope at this point, but we still know quite a bit about her from previous appearances. Being the rogue agent/black sheep of the family, it makes sense that she’s not explored any further.

Of course, we don’t need a backstory for Gwen. Everything since the pilot episode has been her story with Torchwood Three.

This marks a couple of firsts for Torchwood: First, the Doctor is explicitly name-checked here instead of just being nodded to. Second, this is the first appearance of UNIT in the series, and they are far more malevolent than we’ve seen them in the past. Jack’s probably right that this is due to the political climate of the era since Tosh’s flashbacks take place circa 2003, right in the fervent upswing of the Global War on Terrorism.

That’s science fiction doing what science fiction does best: Acting as a lens on the human condition.

We also get quite a few brushes with Doctor Who mythology, from Earthshock to the television movie and all of the elements of Torchwood established in the revival era.

A cynic from the Joss Whedon School of Screenwriting might think that all of these revelations mean bad omens for our team. Sadly, they would be right, which we’ll find out next week when the John Hart/Gray arc finds its resolution.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Exit Wounds

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW24: Adrift

Torchwood: Adrift
(1 episode, s02e11, 2008)

 

The Rift taketh and the Rift giveth away.

A young man is walking home from football practice along the Cardiff Bay Barrage when he vanishes in bright light and a gust of wind. Seven months later, Gwen and PC Andy Davidson are investigating the case. They catch up about the wedding and their relationship, and Davidson tells Gwen that this case is personal for him.

He shows her CCTV footage, hinting at the type of thing that Torchwood pays attention to. Gwen is intrigued when Jack appears on the footage as well. She checks with Tosh, discovers that the Rift was quiet, and gets nothing from Jack about the incident.

Andy is unimpressed with the effort.

Gwen visits Jonah Bevan’s mother who has been scanning crowd videos for her son’s face. Nikki Bevan refuses to give up hope and she asks Gwen to come to her support group meeting. Gwen returns home and apologizes for being late in more ways than one. The next morning, she gets a lead from Tosh about a negative Rift spike during the event, which she normally considers to be aftershocks.

She wonders, though, if the Rift could take material from our world instead of only depositing it.

Gwen and Andy go to Nikki’s support group meeting and are surprised at the number of people who attend. To say that there is a lot is an understatement. Gwen is overwhelmed but inspired by the scope and asks Tosh to help process the dates of disappearance against Rift activity.

Gwen makes considerable progress, correlating walls of missing person posters with Rift spikes. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t know how to practically stop the disappearances when they cannot predict the Rift spikes. He shuts down her research project, but Gwen isn’t ready to give up.

Unfortunately, it starts to tear at her relationship with Rhys. She returns to the Hub, interrupting an encounter between Jack and Ianto to plead her case. Jack tells her no, but Ianto leaves her a GPS unit on her desk that she takes to Andy. The coordinates lead to a facility on Flat Holm, and Gwen leaves Andy on the pier as she contracts a boat to the island.

The facility houses seventeen victims of the Rift who have been taken and returned, but in the process have been aged and (in some cases) deformed. Gwen finds that Jack knew about all of it. She also finds Jonah, who was trapped on a burning planet for forty relative years. He was rescued and witnessed the burning of a solar system.

Jack tells Gwen that he set up this facility to house the victims and that before he took over Torchwood Three, the victims were locked away in the vaults and neglected. They cannot be fixed, only cared for. Gwen promises to bring Nikki to the facility, an action with which Jack vehemently disagrees. He eventually relents.

In order to reunite Nikki with Jonah, Gwen has to tell her about Torchwood and the Rift. Nikki meets her son and doesn’t recognize him at first, but they soon share memories that only Jonah would know. Nikki calms herself and finally sees beyond the scars to her son, but the reunion is shortlived. Jonah has a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that forces him to scream for twenty hours a day after he looked into a dark star and was driven insane.

The screams are so intense, so primal, that they drive everyone away. Nikki is devastated.

One week later, Nikki makes Gwen promise that she will never do this to anyone else. She says that it would have been better to remember her son as he once was, not as he survives now. Her hope has been extinguished.

Gwen tears down her research as Nikki disposes of her life of sorrowful searching. Gwen returns home and tries to make amends with Rhys, but ends up breaking down in his arms. They mend their bridges by discussing her experience.

 

The exploration of the darker side to Torchwood is fascinating, particularly since Jack serves two purposes here: First, he keeps this secret from nearly everyone in his employ, and, second, he takes on the role of the custodian of these lost souls when no one else will. Just when I think I have Jack figured out…

It’s especially heartbreaking given the ignorance of the victims’ families. They think that they want answers about their missing loved ones, but the truth of what the uncontrollable Rift does with them is beyond what they can bear.

The lingering question concerns the staff at the facility. Do they about Torchwood, or are they privy to just enough information to do their jobs?

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Fragments

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.